Posted by: tootingtrumpet | September 4, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 3 September 2016

Rob Keogh coming to a pub near you in 2026

Rob Keogh coming to a pub near you in 2026

Ball One – Rain thwarts Rayner and co

Four rain affected draws in Division One, which probably only helped Surrey, whose week off fell kindly for the South Londoners, if not their North London rivals. Middlesex declared at tea on Day Three and had sent three Warwickshire batsmen back to the hutch by the start of Day Four, with seven wickets looking a lot more likely than 264 runs if a result were to be squeezed in. But the weather defeated both teams, with Middlesex’s last round showdown at Lord’s with champions and second place team, Yorkshire, looking more vital than ever, just four points the gap with three matches to play. Middlesex will hope that their late season spin specialist, Ollie Rayner, retains his form, his seven wickets this week adding to his nine last time out.

Ball Two – Tykes’ time taken by rain

Yorkshire were in almost the same position in terms of numbers when the rain ended their outing at The Rose Bowl. Having been ahead in the game from the moment Tim Bresnan, not for the first time this season, steadied a wobbling first innings, Andrew Gale’s men were six wickets short of victory while Hampshire – just as desperate for a win to stave off relegation – were 214 short of their very unlikely objective when the match finished a session early. Yorkshire have bowling to burn, especially when they get their England contingent back, but with Jack Brooks averaging more for them this season than Gary Ballance, Andrew Gale, Alex Lees and Adam Lyth, they’ll need big runs from somewhere if they are to give Jason Gillespie a valedictory pennant to take home to Australia.

Ball Three – Nottinghamshire bowlers disappointed to have Onions for lunch

Nottinghamshire entertained hopes of a much needed win over a sinking Durham (second a month ago, seventh now) when they were just 34 behind at the halfway mark with three of the visitors’ wickets already down. While they would have expected Keaton Jennings to be a hard nut to crack in this most productive of seasons for the tall lefty, they surely had reckoned without nightwatchman, Graham Onions, batting into the afternoon for his career best 65. What a servant the local boy has been to Durham cricket and what a shame his international sorties were so often curtailed by injury – this was a man whose run-up was once eulogised by Michael Holding, who knew a bit about how to get from mark to crease. The draw wasn’t much good for Notts and Durham can’t afford to slip further, though they do have a game in hand on their rivals.

Ball Four – Tom Westley sends the ball to all parts of the compass, as Essex hammer Worcestershire

By contrast, Division Two served up three positive results from its complement of four matches, the most important being Essex’s smashing of Worcestershire at Chelmsford. On Thursday evening, with the match only at half distance, I excitedly pointed out to a fellow cricket buff that Tom Westley was on 238* and might have two sessions still to bat – a Hick, if not a Lara, was in sight! But he went early on Day Three, his 254 propelling the home team to a monstrous 601-5 declared, with skipper Ryan ten Doeschate contributing 109* and Ravi Bopara 99, a first class ton still elusive in 2016. After David Masters seven first innings wickets. it was the turn of that other wily old fox, Graham Napier, whose five-fer in the second dig secured a full hand of 24 points for the Division leaders.

Ball Five – Kent can as Sussex suffer

Kent, to their credit, matched Essex blow by blow, also securing a full points bag to hang on, 24 points off the top spot, with two matches to play. Sam Northeast steered his team to a victory that mirrored Essex’s, a big middle innings meaning that his men needed to bat just the once to defeat a deflated Sussex. It was a real team effort too, no bowler taking more wickets in the match than South African speedster Hardus Viljoen’s six and no batsman making a century, though Will Gidman batted nearly six hours at Number 7, only to be left stranded on 99 when Mark Claydon was caught. Kent need snookers, but they have taken 71 of the last 72 points available (alas for them, so have Essex) and they appear to have an entire XI in form – so anything could happen in the race for the one promotion slot this season.

Ball Six – Ke-who? No, Keogh

Performance of the Week in Division Two may lead to one of the harder pub quiz questions of the next decade – “In September 2016, which bowler took 9-52 and 4-73 to earn his team their second win of the season?” You would do well to come up with Northamptonshire batsman and occasional spinner, Rob Keogh, who had a day to remember as he ran through Glamorgan’s first innings, only Graeme White’s snaring of Jacques Rudolph, seventh wicket down, denying him a Laker-like full set. In that future quiz, the question that  requires the answer “Ben Duckett” is unlikely to be limited to domestic cricket, after his knocks of 80 and 185, scored at better than a run a ball overall, increased the clamour for England to give yet another masterblaster a crack in national colours.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 28, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 28 August 2016

Where some of English cricket's best performers relax

Where some of English cricket’s best performers relax

Ball One – Bresnan, Brooks and back-ups break Nottinghamshire

With leaders Middlesex having a week off, the counties bunched behind them had the opportunity to jostle for position as the run-in begins in earnest – easier said than done of course. At 11.00am on Tuesday, Yorkshire would have felt themselves ideally placed to launch their endgame seeking the Division One hat-trick – North Marine Road as well appointed as ever, their opponents rock-bottom Nottinghamshire, the crowd partisan. Within a couple of hours, the home side were 51-6 and cricket, again, showed that it was not in the mood to be taken for granted. But you don’t win consecutive pennants without knowing how to turn matches round and back-up keeper Andy Hodd and back-up spinner Azeem Rafiq counter-attacked effectively, posting 132 for the seventh wicket. That foothold became a platform when the seamers ran through Notts for 94 and they were at it again in the fourth innings, cleaning up the visitors for 146. Tim Bresnan had match figures of 8-51 (and 45 runs for once out) and Jack Brooks wasn’t far behind with 7-76 (and 48 runs for once out), the two old heads cool under pressure. When the leaves start to fall, “finding a way” becomes the most important skill in cricket – and few find a way as often as Jason Gillespie’s Yorkshire.

Ball Two – Surrey’s lefties deliver domestically with an eye on joining the international brigade

County cricket’s form side met county cricket’s out-of-form side at The Oval – and the expected result duly arrived, as London sweltered. While all the talk pre-match centred on Haseeb Hameed, Lancashire’s teenage opener, his two wasted starts turned the spotlight on the home side’s two left arm seamers: Mark Footitt and Sam Curran. Since his selection for England’s touring party last winter, Footitt seems to have either been injured or easing his way back from injury, but his second innings 7-62 not only sent Surrey third in the table, but also provided a springboard for a late season run to possible selection again, though that seems unlikely given the pitches likely to be encountered in Bangladesh and India. It’s probably too soon for the cherubic Curran jnr, but his hard hit 96 and four first innings wickets lifted his season averages to 40 and 28 respectively – at 18 years of age, in Division One. It’s not “if” for England, it’s “when” for the super-talented manchild.

Ball Three – Hampshire closer to their objective; Somerset further away

Despite Roelof Van der Merwe’s match figures of 63 – 13 – 143 – 5 with the ball and an undefeated century with the bat backed up by Craig Overton’s pyrotechnics in his 138* at better than a run a ball from Number 9, Somerset ran out of time at Taunton, as Sean Ervine and Jimmy Adams made sure Hampshire secured the draw that lifted them 21 points clear of relegation with three games to play. The home side aren’t completely out of the race for the pennant, 22 points off Middlesex with four matches to play, but Somerset have been more handily placed than that over the years and have yet to win a Championship. That said, wouldn’t Marcus Trescothick be a popular winner if the dream does come true?

Ball Four – The only win is Essex at Grace Road

Essex’s second consecutive win lifted them 24 points clear at the top of Division Two with three matches to play. They were still 170 behind with half their first innings wickets gone and Leicestershire no doubt feeling well placed just before lunch on day Two – 140 overs later, the match was over. Dan Lawrence (another impressive English teenager) registered his fourth County Championship century, his 154 at Number 6 backed up by half-centuries from Ryan ten Doeschate at 7 and James Foster at 8 (with Will Rhodes and Graham Napier at 9 and 10!) Jamie Porter bagged a second clutch of four wickets and the visitors travelled south to enjoy a day off and the prospect of Division One cricket in 2017.

Ball Five – DI Stevens solves the case of the missing runs

Kent’s win at Bristol is about the only thing ensuring that the Chelmsford champagne stays on ice, a full 24 points haul keeping them in touch as August turns to September. Kent enjoy a phalanx of all-rounders in the middle order and two came good in a stand of 258 for the fifth wicket. Keeper-batsman, Sam Billings, has already played white ball cricket for England and scores like 171 won’t do his international cause any harm, despite England’s glut of gung ho glovemen. Even he was outscored by the old trouper Darren Stevens, who at 40 years of old, opened the bowling in both innings, took five wickets in his 39 overs and biffed 140 off 161 balls, for a first century of the season. Methinks that the old warhorse isn’t for the knackers yard yet – so give him another contract!

Ball Six – Danny Briggs gets Sussex out of jail with vital win

Sussex won their second consecutive match in a low scoring thriller at Cardiff. After three innings had been concluded between 252 and 283, the visitors needed 233 to gain the 16 points reward for a win they needed to have any chance of an instant return to the top flight. That target looked a long way off when the seventh wicket fell still 77 runs short and the very sharp Timm van der Gugten having already won two LBW decisions and hit the stumps twice, fancied more. In came Danny Briggs, still only 25, but with plenty of experience, some for England, but very much a late order batsman and not even a bowler who bats. The tall spinner got the scoreboard moving, making 36, but leaving the crease with 22 still required. As keeper, Ben Brown, anchored one end, teenager George Garton calmly stroked 18 to get the away side over the line, eight down. Sussex will probably need to win at least three of their four remaining matches to gain promotion, but, as Worcestershire showed in chasing 401 to win after conceding an Adelaidesque 551 runs in the first innings of the match, when the win is all that matters, strange things can happen

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 22, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 21 August 2016

Alex Wakely at Edgbaston

Alex Wakely at Edgbaston

Ball One – Ollie Rayner regal at Lord’s come mid-August

Nobody thinks scheduling matches is easy, but the ECB might have chosen a better week than the closing one of The Olympics and opening one of the Premier League football season to stage crucial matches in all three domestic competitions – but they didn’t. Middlesex enjoy a 26 points lead at the top of Division One after seeing off Durham by an innings in a rare positive result at Lord’s. The home side’s two Nicks at the top of the order, Gubbins and Compton, both made decent hundreds and Toby Roland-Jones, seldom out of a game for long, applied the long handle just prior to the declaration with a lead of 332. But Middlesex had Ollie Rayner, off spinner, affable chap and late season specialist, to thank most for their win, the tall man returning figures of 4-17 in the first innings and 5-85 in the second. Spinners earn their corn in the Championship run-in and, if Rayner can repeat his trick from 2013 – taking 23 wickets in three late August / early September matches, Middlesex will fancy their chances of staying top.

Ball Two – CC for HH as Andrew Gale refuses to unleash a whirlwind

There are six other counties who could yet make a run for the pennant, led by its current holders, Yorkshire, who have a game in hand and plenty of know-how in the bank. So it was surprising to see the White Rose settle for what turned into a tame draw at Old Trafford, hands shaken on the field as Lancashire’s always fatalistic supporters wiped the sweat from their palms. After Haseeb Hameed had added to both his reputation and list of records with two centuries compiled over nearly eight hours at the crease against the best attack in English domestic cricket, Adam Lyth and Alex Lees were still together when the draw was agreed, the visitors with all ten wickets in hand. The target of 367 in 71 overs on a pitch that was said to have made scoring quickly difficult, was not chased despite Day Four bringing 350 runs for the loss of three wickets. Jason Gillespie and Andrew Gale have won more County Championships than I have, but I was not alone in being puzzled by their tactics and in wondering if their risk aversion may prove critical in the final reckoning.

Ball Three – Brad Wheal and Mason Crane can lift Hampshire even if they drop to Division Two

At the bottom of Division One, Hampshire beat Nottinghamshire to give themselves a lifeline and leave the home side with a lot to do in the last four matches if they are to avoid the drop. Hampshire led by 74 on first innings and a 160 runs stand between Jimmy Adams and Tom Alsop, who both fell in the 90s, took defeat out of the question, but there was still a lot to do to secure the win. Highly rated teenage leg-spinner, Mason Crane, had four sessions to spin Notts out and his 3-95 showed again that he has real potential in cricket’s most difficult art. But he was upstaged by another teenager, Scotland’s Brad Wheal, whose seam-up at fourth change brought figures of 19-4-51-6. Hampshire might yo-yo into Division Two next month, but these two young bowlers have shown that they can take wickets and can only improve with time in the middle.

Ball Four – Ravi Bopara shines away from the limelight

Essex, without a win since early July, extended their lead at the top of Division Two to the 23 points they picked up in the win over Derbyshire, rock bottom and winless in a miserable season. Nick Browne’s epic nine hour 229* set up the victory but the craft and nous of Graham Napier and Ravi Bopara took 13 of the 20 wickets required for just 132 runs between them. Bopara hasn’t registered three figures with the bat in red ball cricket in 2016, but averages a tick under 40 which speaks of his consistency. With the ball, his 37 wickets at 20 have compensated perfectly for the lack of output from Jesse Ryder, whose different version of nagging medium pace has been effective in recent seasons. Of course, few areas of national sport are more under the radar than Division Two County Championship cricket, but Bopara has dug in for his home county and has shown no sign of sulking now his international career appears over – something for which he deserves much credit.

Ball Five – Kumar Sangakkara is as cool and as ruthless as Andrea Pirlo

The winners of the Royal London One Day Cup quarter-finals were Yorkshire, who will play Surrey at Headingley and Warwickshire, who will play Somerset at Edgbaston, the matches sympathetically scheduled over the Bank Holiday weekend. The match of the round was won by the shot of the round, maybe of the season, as Kumar Sangakkara, needing 12 off the last over, squatted, crouched and lifted Azharullah straight over the keeper’s head and the boundary for a six. Rather like Andrea Pirlo (another veteran icon of world sport) with his Panenkaed penalty in Euro2014, Sangakkara knew the shot was worth more than merely what was recorded on the scoresheet with its impact on his opponents, and, sure enough, he got Surrey home off the last ball, his share 130*. Northamptonshire recalibrated their sights from 50 overs to 20.

Ball Six – Two captain’s knocks from Alex Wakely steer Northants to T20 glory

And they didn’t have to wait long for redemption, as they dodged the showers to lift the NatWest T20 Blast Trophy with a comprehensive win over Durham in the Birmingham gloom. After Ben Duckett’s bravado and Alex Wakely’s accumulation had set a target of 162 (worth 20 more in better batting conditions), Nottinghamshire were only really in the chase when they hit 34 off the 10th and 11th overs and fell 8 runs short, completing a difficult week. Enjoying the longer break afforded to the first semi-finalists, Northamptonshire’s pace-off sextet of bowlers and superb catching held all but Durham’s in-form opener, Keaton Jennings in check and could count themselves somewhat unfortunate to be chasing as many as 154. But Wakely, on the field for all but nine of the 80 overs comprising the two matches, was accumulating again, and found a different partner to blast away at the other end, as Josh Cobb hit the ball all round Edgbaston. Cobb left the crease with his team six runs short of victory which, after a bit of nervous prodding and panicky running, duly arrived in the last over. In T20, Northamptonshire so often punch above their weight, even when their finances appear as shot as some of their fans in the Hollies Stand after a long day on the beers. The first silverware of the season is deservedly theirs.


Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 19, 2016

The Alternative Cricket Bucket List

bucketAt the First Test of the summer, the ECB produced a promo brochure with a Bucket List of 50 things to do related to cricket. It was all interesting, if predictable stuff – take a crowg catch, watch a day’s play at Galle from the Fort etc. Jarrod Kimber and I were soon riffing on an Alternative Bucket List and amongst the throwaway stuff, we came up with the following, most of which I can tick off (Jarrod had 25 too)

1. Drop three catches in a match and be fined for jug avoidance

2. Be hit by the ball in the crowd – extra point if it pops up off the rope

3. Be hit for six fours / sixes in an over

4. Been told by the umpire, “It’s all right. I understand that he’s played a bit of first class cricket in Pakistan”.

5. Bat at 12 because both teams have an extra player

6. Be caught at cow corner when batting for a draw

7. Start the last over of a match with the opposition needing 7 runs with two wides

8. Play as emergency wicketkeeper with two odd gloves, wearing batsman’s pads

9. Discover you’re using somebody else’s bat only twenty minutes into your innings

10. Borrow a box – “I will wash it, promise.”

11. Be desperate to ask how long the egg sandwiches have been left in the sun

12. Be shooed off the outfield by stewards after playing cricket at lunch / tea

13. Narrowly avoid being the perpetrator of a Glenn McGrath type incident when a ball you were messing about with got on to the outfield

14. Fall asleep watching cricket on TV overnight and woken up to find a batsman is till at the crease but his score is lower than when you nodded off.

15. Bowl out a teacher at school who then refused to leave the crease

16. Beat the local public school because the local comprehensive’s XI all played Saturday League cricket

17. Get a cricket article spiked

18, Spill beer / tomato ketchup on a proper cable-knit cream sweater

19. Get off the mark with an edge to the keeper not given by “your” umpire,  – running while the keeper was having a strop.

20. Need two more throwers to get the ball in from the boundary

21. Umpire 25 overs of a game when you were told you would get a relief after 10

22. Drop the catch that would have given the bowler a hat-trick

23. Roll the pitch without clearing the stones / fox poo / broken teeth first

24. Put someone off cricket by being too enthusiastic and detailed in your explanations

25. Get rained off without a ball being bowled when due to play a match a first class ground

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 13, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 13 August 2016

Not that one!

Not that one!

Ball One – Greg Smith forges a hard hit fifty as Essex are hammered by Notts

It was T20 quarter-finals week in county cricket (with the final one clashing with both the Olympics and the Fourth Test, but ho hum…). The first quarter-final saw Essex win the toss and invite the home side to bat at Trent Bridge. Both sides would probably have settled for the 162 posted by Notts, Greg Smith (a man who averages 27 in all three forms of the game) top scoring with 50. At the end of the powerplay, Ravi Bopara must have been content with his decision to bat second, the scoreboard showing 62-0, the required rate a comfortable 7.2. But Jesse Ryder was run out in the seventh over and, for once, there was no late order rescue from Ryan ten Doeschate nor James Foster and even Graham Napier couldn’t smash a six or two in consolation. Nottinghamshire progress to Finals Day and have something from a disappointing season.

Ball Two – Adam Rossington – first man in to bat and still there at the end

Another one-sided match saw Northants progress at home to Middlesex, who just couldn’t get going, scoring 65 in the first ten overs but adding just 67 more in the second half of their innings. 133 was never going to trouble Alex Wakeley’s men who could pace their innings knowing that they were only ever a boundary or two away from being up with the ask. Adam Rossington opened and was still there at the end, cruising to 67 not out. Northants have a bit of everything in their XI and could well be dark horses on Finals Day.

Ball Three – Colly wobbles but Durham progress after late scare

It looked like the third quarter-final would be as one-sided as the previous two when Gloucestershire, roughed up by Durham’s Mark Wood, slumped to 54-5 at the halfway mark, needing another 127 for the win. Jack Taylor, with nothing to nothing to lose, swung at everything and middled most, with Paul Collingwood despatched for 22 runs from three legitimate deliveries before his high full tosses required him to call up Scott Borthwick to finish his over. Colly’s economy rate was a eye-watering 44! But Taylor couldn’t do it all himself, a last over comedy run out with his brother sealing Gloucestershire’s fate and giving Durham fans a rare day out at Edgbaston.

Ball Four – David Willey stands out as Yorkshire see off Glamorgan

So that’s why they signed David Willey. Over the last few years, Yorkshire’s red ball cricket has been almost irresistible, with two Championship pennants in the last couple of summers to prove it, but their white ball stuff has been curiously flat. That’s not an adjective you would ever use to describe the aggressive David Willey, who went in first, went aerial and will be going to Finals Day with, if both win their semi-finals, the prospect of facing his old county, Northamptonshire, on cricket’s biggest domestic day. Purists (and they are not short of them in The Broad Acres) might want to see a bit more of his skills in the four day format, but nobody will be thinking that at Edgbaston where he will open the batting and bowling bristling with intent.

Ball Five – Keaton Jennings spies a window of opportunity

With England’s red ball cricket season coming to a close, it’s timely to look at who has impressed in county cricket and might just sneak a place in a touring squad. Keaton Jennings is top of the pops amongst Division One batsmen, his 965 runs coming at 69 including five hundreds (and over 250 ahead of team-mate Scott Borthwick). Now qualified for England, the tall left-handed bat can also bowl a little seam up, a useful string to one’s bow in an England side whose change bowler (Joe Root) has a long term back condition. Perhaps one might like to see more than one season of accomplishment before an England cap is awarded, but Jennings has had his eye on one since declaring for England four years ago, and he is not far away now.

Ball Six – Gareth Batty – the new Shaun Udal?

Amongst the bowlers in county cricket, few are enjoying a season like Surrey’s Gareth Batty. The ruddy-faced combative (sometimes too combative) Yorkshireman has 36 wickets at 28 and is bowling better than ever. With England casting about for a second (maybe a first) spinner, could Batty do “a Udal”? The combative (sometimes too combative) Hampshire spinner was 37 when he bowled England to a series squaring win in Mumbai ten years ago. Perhaps whenever England need to play a second spinner, the form man should be picked, regardless of age.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 8, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 7 August 2016

Haseeb Hameed

Haseeb Hameed

Ball One – Jack Leach leaves Durham’s late order in a bloody mess

Yet another draw at Lord’s kept Middlesex in Division One’s top slot, but wins for Somerset and, especially, defending champions Yorkshire, means that the title race will remain as fascinating in August as it has been since April – it really is a wonderful format and it’s so disappointing that it will change for 2017. Somerset leapfrogged opponents Durham coming out on top in a low-scoring thriller at Taunton, the match decided in a blaze of wickets early on Day Three, which started nicely poised with Durham needing 46 runs and Somerset five wickets. In less than 20 minutes, spinners Jack Leach and Roelof van der Merwe gobbled up the necessary scalps and sent Durham on the long journey home licking their wounds. The spin twins shared 17 wickets in the match and contributed to Somerset’s late order batting rallies which saw the last five wickets in the first innings score 103 of 184 and in the second 159 of 180. Durham drop to fourth, their only consolation that of being involved in another tremendous game of cricket.

Ball Tw0 – Yorkshire get their defence of the pennant back on the road

After a couple of months without a win, Yorkshire had their big wheels back in the side and Jason Gillespie’s juggernaut was soon on the move again, beating a spirited Warwickshire in another low scoring thriller. After putting together a handy last wicket stand of 53, grizzled old pros Steve Patterson and Ryan Sidebottom got amongst the Warwickshire batsmen to help establish a crucial first innings lead of 78. Alex Lees came within one wicket of carrying his bat second time round, but got scant support for his four hour 70 and Warwickshire fancied their chances with 229 to get for the win. With one of the most dangerous lower orders in the county game, Ian Bell’s men were still in with a shout when Rikki Clarke fell with 88 to get and four wickets in hand. But for the second time in the match, Adil Rashid ran through the bowlers who bat and Yorkshire found themselves third, 14 points off the leaders, with a game in hand.

Ball Three – Cricket fails to bloom at the Rose Bowl

In sharp contrast to the low scoring heart-thumpers elsewhere in the Division, the Rose Bowl played host to a dull run-fest as Hampshire drew with Lancashire, a result that helped neither the home team’s relegation scrap nor the visitor’s fast fading Championship hopes. Captain Will Smith batted nine and a half hours for 210, refusing to declare until into the sixth session of the match, a good innings, but dubious tactic. The visitors then had the task of batting 25 overs and two days without losing 20 wickets and did so comfortably, finishing three down following-on. That might have been torture for the spectators and the Hampshire bowlers, but it was heaven for Lancashire’s teenage opener, Haseeb Hameed, who would bat all-day every day given the chance. He spent 505 minutes at the crease accumulating 142 runs for once out and furthering the thought that Geoffrey Boycott may have returned, this time on the west side of the Pennines. As with fellow teen, Sam Curran, the question is not whether he will play Test cricket for England but when. I’ll be disappointed if I’m still asking that question this time next year.

Ball Four – Lord’s pitches are too “good” to produce good cricket

I love Lord’s, its history, its low hum of anticipation on a Test match morning and its unique sloping greensward. But I’m beginning to hate the square that commands our attention when we’re there. As mentioned above, the London derby finished in a draw, but what did you expect? It’s the fifth in five Championship matches this season at HQ and the innings scores make damning reading for those who believe that pitches should balance what they offer to bat and ball: 452 & 304-6 vs 468; 354 vs 203-3; 376 & 202-7 vs 423; 513 vs 419-5; and 415 & 266-7 vs 293 & 278-6.

Ball Five – Kent harvest useful points in August

It’s even tighter in Division Two, where Kent’s win left them one point ahead of long time leaders Essex after their crushing victory over Worcestershire. It was good to see Will Gidman, whose career was drifting at Notts, make a crucial 75* and chip in with three wickets, to justify his decision to move south on loan. He’s in good company at Canterbury as Kent fielded no less than six players who can claim to be at least bowlers who bat or batsmen who bowl (Gidman himself, Joe Denly, Darren Stevens, James Tredwell, Matt Coles and Mitchell Claydon). Moving into that part of the season when finding a way to win matters a lot more than how you actually do it, that’s a handy set of players to call upon.

Ball Six – Graham Napier lights up a match yet again

Essex slipped to second, but that was hardly the fault of one of their oldest stagers and one of this column’s favourite cricketers. I could write about Chris Jordan’s excellent match with seven wickets and a knock of 131, but I’m going to highlight Graham Napier, who took 5-114 in Sussex’s innings and then made 124 off 155 balls when defeat wasn’t quite out of the question. He’s 36 now, but he’s enjoying an Indian summer with 43 wickets at 26 and 251 runs at 28. What a servant to Essex, and the game, he has been and how he’ll be missed when he’s gone.


Posted by: tootingtrumpet | August 1, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 31 July 2016

John Hurt is surprised by the return of the Royal London Cup

John Hurt is surprised by the return of the Royal London Cup

Ball One – Tykes top as Royal London Cup bursts into life

Reminding me a little of that scene in Alien, the Royal London One Day Cup burst back into life after five weeks of slumber with a slew of midweek matches. Yorkshire went top of the North Group with two wins in a week, the first a 191 runs annihilation of Leicestershire and the second a well-managed chase of 252 to defeat Nottinghamshire. Travis Head (175) and Jack Leaning (131*) put Leicestershire’s bowlers to the sword with a third wicket stand of 274, but, cricket being cricket, they both got ducks three days later. What kind of old game is it?

Ball Two – Somerset’s old boys school Glamorgan and Middlesex

In the South Group, two wins in a week for Somerset saw them join Essex at the top of the table. Weight of runs from the top order played a big part in both victories, Somerset posting 200 in each innings with only three wickets down. That shouldn’t be too much of a surprise as there’s plenty of experience in a quintet of wise old foxes: Myburgh (35); Allenby (33); Trego (35); Jayawardene (39) and Hildreth (31). Who said this one day stuff was a young man’s game?

Ball Three – Stoneman and MacLeod rock solid and Durham march on

In the T20 Blast North Group, Durham needed to win to squeeze Lancashire out of a quarter-final slot and that’s exactly what they did, comfortably disposing of Derbyshire – who would have qualified themselves had they won. Paul Collingwood’s men were indebted to Mark Stoneman and Scotland’s Calum MacLeod who put on 141 in 13.4 overs, scoring over 90% of their team’s runs off the bat. Derbyshire never got the asking rate below ten, with Scott Borthwick again showing decent bowling chops with three wickets. With Stoneman departing at the end of the season and rumblings about others, Durham’s 2016 season is holding together remarkably well – something for which the skipper should take great credit.

Ball Four – Ashar Zaidi buries Middlesex’s bowling

In the South Group, Essex were grateful for the point that arrived with Friday’s rain after Glamorgan had posted a stiff target of 185 at Chelmsford. If that were the margin that separated them from fifth place Surrey and secured a quarter-final berth, the real work had been done the previous evening at Lord’s, where the target was a seemingly straightforward 127 off 16. It looked anything but that when captain, Ravi Bopara, was run out with 73 required off 7.1 overs. Enter the squat, almost square figure of Ashar Zaidi, who likes nothing more than being given the job of swinging from the hip and the hell with the consequences. From a solid base (some would say very solid indeed), bat is put to ball and the ball goes a long way. Half an hour later, Zaidi had 59* from 24 and Essex had a foothold in the quarter-finals. I guess you have to have some serious power if Ryan ten Doeschate is held back to knock it around at the death.

Ball Five – Ian Bell takes his toll on county attacks.

As the T20 Blast Group stage concludes (after 14 matches – don’t ask), gnarled Aussie pro Michael Klinger sits top of the runs charts with 530 for Gloucestershire with team mate, the unheralded Ian Cockbain, second on 499. (I am obliged to point out that I once played against “young” Cockbain’s grandfather, the terrifying Ron of Bootle CC back in the 70s). But who’s that in fourth spot, neither an overseas pro on the franchise circuit, nor a thrusting young Englishman, and not even a bit gnarly – it’s Ian Bell! The classy ex-England man scored 489 runs at 41 with a decent strike rate of 131 too – not at all bad in anyone’s reck0ning. It seems somehow appropriate that, despite his effort, Warwickshire missed out on a quarter-final by one point.

Ball Six – Benny Howell – top cat with the ball

It’s a Gloucestershire man on top of the bowling ladder too, but who would have guessed his identity… wait for it… Benny Howell! A classic bits-and-pieces man, Benny is ultra-competitive and thinks very hard about his bowling: 23 wickets at 15 and a truly remarkable economy rate of 6.7 are not numbers you get by simply whanging it down there. Second on the wicket-taking list is Graham Napier and fifth Tim Bresnan – a couple of wily campaigners if ever there were two. Field restrictions, the wides interpretation and big bats can make white ball cricket look like too much of a batsmen’s game, but nous with the ball can still go a long way.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 24, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 24 July 2016

The teams line up for a T20 Blast match

The teams line up for a T20 Blast match

Ball One – Durham rock solid at the seaside

When Lancashire faced Durham at Southport (one of many outgrounds favoured by last week’s good weather), the prize was worth fighting for – second spot in Division One, just behind leaders Middlesex. And how they fought! With the home side behind 87 on first innings, they needed someone to step up to the er… crease and Luke Procter, a bit-part player in recent seasons, did so with a fine 122, leaving Durham 247 to win and the fourth day to get them. With Keaton Jennings and Jack Burnham showing the more experienced heads how to do it, the visitors got over the line, eight down, late in the day. It’s more than 40 years since I first watched cricket at Southport and, if Paul Edwards’ evocative reports are anything to go by, little has changed – a pleasing thought in a game, indeed a world, which might benefit by standing still for a moment and valuing what it has.

Ball Two – Marcus Trescothick turns back the clock as he turns up the pressure on Notts

Marcus Trescothick may be 41 come Christmas Day, but mere age didn’t stop him doing what he does for Somerset, spending the entire match on the field having been last man out for 218 and then helping himself to a few more as Nottinghamshire went down by ten wickets to drop into the relegation zone. It’s around this time last year that Peter Moores turned up and rescued Notts’ campaign and something similar is needed now, ten points off safety with five games to play. Not that Somerset, and their opening batsman who was out twice to Phil DeFreitas on debut for 1 and 3 some 23 years ago but hasn’t done too badly since, will care about that.

Ball Three – Gareth Batty – captain, batsman, bowler

In the Curran brothers, Dominic Sibley and Ben Foakes, Surrey have some fine young cricketers, but, as is the way with a developing side, there are times when a wise old head is required and so it was at the Rose Bowl. After skipper Gareth Batty had chosen to bat on all the way up to 637-7 dec, with centuries for Rory Burns and Foakes and one for himself at Number 9, he challenged his bowlers to take 20 wickets in seven sessions. Well not quite, because one of those bowlers was himself of course and he backed up his ton with match figures of 58-25-129-8. If it was Stuart Meaker who blasted out the last two men to secure the win and a vital 23 points, well I reckon he owed his no doubt ruddy-faced captain that one.

Ball Four – Leicestershire win again

Not so long ago, Leicestershire used to go through whole seasons without a county championship win, but their third victory of 2016 lifted them to fourth in Division Two, just 11 points off leaders Essex. It’s a very different Leicestershire this year, a side packed with experience (one might say veterans) and they drew on those years in a tight win over Gloucestershire, the 108 runs partnership between Mark Cosgrove and Paul Horton breaking the back of a 181 runs target. That said, it was 24 year-old Ben Raine, who has seen a few defeats in his short career, who led the way, with seven wickets and a handy 33 not out down the order. Whether Cosgrove’s squad could deal with Division One cricket in 2017 is a question that might soon need to be asked.

Ball Five – Yorkshire’s investment in David Willey begins to pay off

Performance of the Week in the T20 Blast North Group goes to David Willey whose blasting at the top of the order brought two wins for Yorkshire and a chance of qualification for Finals Day. On Wednesday, he made 32 off 14 balls, then backed that up with 74 off 46 on Friday, the kind of innings Yorkshire paid for when tempting him away from his opponents in the latter match, Northamptonshire, last winter. In T20 cricket, openers who can score at a strike rate of pushing 200 need not make really big scores to be effective, as even 30-odd will allow some relatively quiet overs later in the innings, either setting or chasing. And few batting sides don’t need a breather at some point, even in the harum-scarum format.

Ball Six – Middlesex in supreme form and looking good for honours

Performance of the Week in the South Group goes to Middlesex’s batting unit who showed, in front of a record crowd at Lord’s, how to chase down a big target. After Surrey’s eight sixes and 12 fours had carried the visitors to 196, Middlesex managed the reply so expertly that the required run rate never went above 10 and, despite scoring only three sixes, a remarkable 26 fours saw them home comfortably. The next day, a second half century in two matches for George Bailey supported by a fifty for John Simpson, enjoying the form of his life, proved too much for Hampshire, as Middlesex march on in red and white ball cricket.


Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 20, 2016

At Lord’s, 17 July 2016

SaluteNearly a month on, my country feels unfamiliar, its howl against the future still echoing around its four nations, its politics stabilising a little, but perhaps, like Werner Herzog’s boat in Fitzcarraldo merely pausing in an isolated calm while malevolent rapids whip and pull at it. Every day since June 24 has had a moment when I have caught myself thinking that it didn’t actually happen, that all would be well again, that a common polity amongst a people sharing geographical, cultural and social space would be ours again, warts and all. But no. There’s Boris giving my country’s response to the appalling events in Nice, and emerging leaders casually frightening me about my kids’ future access to the hospital where they were born and which I love and revere like mediaeval peasants must have loved and revered their Gothic cathedrals. Are my kids’ passports stamped with the mark of heresy, excommunication their fate?

And there’s the much darker, much more immediate fear stalking the land – that shared by people with foreign accents, with names that show roots in faraway climes, with skin that just isn’t really white enough to avoid comment now, is it? The people sworn at on buses, abused from passing cars, the people whispering to their children at school gates in the language they use to express their family love at home. Fear has been planted in the hearts of those utterly blameless people at whom the graffiti, the tweets and the hate is aimed – and who must look forward to the next general election knowing that their children’s right to breathe England’s air is somehow now a subject for polite debate: for shame, England for shame. This hate was unleashed by the rhetoric of campaigns for whom second was nowhere, campaigns that always had another good reason to crank up the emotions just one notch more, campaigns that worked out that one message trumped all others – race – and it won’t be easily put back in its fetid box. This was the legacy of 23 June 2016, the day my side lost the vote and I lost a huge chunk of a future that I had complacently believed to be mine forever.

On a day so sunny it could have been conjured by Enid Blyton, Lord’s looked its best on Sunday afternoon – no, it looked beyond even that superlative, an intangible atmosphere penetrating sense beyond vision. Nearly 30,000 people were completely absorbed by the match: no buzz and clinking of glasses in hospitality, few picnickers on the Nursery Ground, the near silence suggesting the collective concentration of Examination Room. Jonny Bairstow and Chris Woakes were fighting hard, still well short of their goal, but still fighting, while Yasir Shah and Wahab Riaz went through their bags of tricks and Misbah-ul-Haq pondered his next move from mid-off. It was a very good Test match, teetering towards becoming a great Test match, and I was there.

But it was more than that. Green shirts were scattered generously amongst the house, their support for the visiting team vocal and made visible on the big screens. It was the kind of support that could lift a team, but it lifted their opponents too – this was something that really mattered. There was no hate – nor even its precursor, insult. Thursday had brought a century for Pakistan’s captain which had lifted everyone to their feet, and a celebration that was as charming as it was surprising. Misbah is following the Brendon McCullum playbook of last summer in playing the game with a smile and a fundamental decency that respects his own team, his opponents and the game. His carapace of dignity did not just deflect insults, it deterred them.

There was little of the rancour that meets every (inevitable) defeat of England’s football team when Mohammad Amir (who had been treated decently by the crowd and whose palpable Day One nervousness was more of a sign than any interview soundbite of how exactly much it mattered to him, of his understanding of the extent of his terrible error) smashed Jake Ball’s stumps, cricket’s most inarguable dismissal provided the match the fullest of full stops. Pakistan’s fans were naturally joyful, England’s rueful, but with the considerable compensation that their team had not surrendered meekly against a very fine bowling attack, one blessed by skill, led with authority and touched by genius. Tickets for future Tests sold well in the aftermath of the Lord’s defeat, for these lads were worth supporting.

When the victors lined up in the slanty early evening sunshine for an impromptu set of press-ups in tribute to their army fitness instructors, peals of laughter rang round the ground. This was no over-rehearsed melodramatic haka (the players were gloriously out of synch – for the first time all match, they looked like a club side), nor was it set up for a cynical exposure of sponsors – it was simply a bunch of blokes who had achieved what they set out to do, saluting (literally, if haphazardly) their captain and the discipline he had brought to an often chaotic cricket culture.

When memories of the match fade – they won’t disappear, not after a match like that – the emotions will remain. Here was my game being played in my city with thousands of people reacting in my way to a game played the way I believe it should be played. 2106, having delivered misery and fear far too often, had brought forth four days that might not matter that much in the sweep of history – it’s only a game after all – but they sure mattered to me. And I suspect that I am not alone in that sentiment.

Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 17, 2016

The Final Over of the Week in County Cricket – 17 July 2016

Middlesex as seen by Somerset

Middlesex as seen by Somerset

Ball One – Middlesex stay top after sensational win over Somerset

If Middlesex break Yorkshire’s stranglehold on the Division One title come September, expect plenty of references to their extraordinary win at Taunton last week as the turning point of the campaign. The Londoners were six down and still over 100 behind on first innings when they began to haul themselves back into the match. James Harris and James Fuller, who probably owed their places to England selectors favouring Steven Finn and Toby Roland-Jones, added 162 for the ninth wicket and Middlesex were unexpectedly ahead at the halfway mark. But Marcus Trescothick and Peter Trego scored tons prompting Chris Rogers to set the visitors 302 in a minimum of 46 overs – a positive, if ultimately doomed, declaration. Cue fourth afternoon mayhem that showed the county championship off to very best effect – Somerset striving for wickets, Middlesex refusing to contemplate the draw. If John Simpson’s six-to-win-it eight down at the death, made him the hero of the match, we shouldn’t forget to salute 22 players who played to win from first to last. Middlesex lead the table and Somerset continue to search for a second win of the season.

Ball Two – Yorkshire’s Adam Lyth gets the better of Surrey, but rain beats both teams

Yorkshire, without a win since the Roses triumph in early June, looked handily placed to force a win over fragile Surrey, but could do nothing about the rain which allowed fewer than 50 overs on the first two days at The Oval. There was time for Adam Lyth to compile a double century in a match in which the next highest score was his skipper’s 61 and put his name back in the selectors’ minds. He seems a long way off a return to England’s colours, but so did his team-mate, Gary Ballance, and he got the nod for the First Test, so who knows? With Yorkshire still handily placed to retain the pennant, 25 points off the leaders with a game in hand, he’ll have plenty of opportunities to deliver under pressure before the summer is out.

Ball Three – Gloucestershire have what’s needed to challenge for promotion

In what’s turning into a fine race for the one promotion slot available in Division Two, an impressive team effort from Gloucestershire saw them defeat leaders Essex, and squeeze up to within 11 points of their foes with a game in hand. With their young captain -opener-keeper Gareth Roderick leading from the front with 61 and 102 in a low scoring match, bowlers Craig Miles, Liam Norwell, David Payne and Josh Shaw shared the wickets around, ensuring that Dan Lawrence’s century and Matthew Quinn’s 11 wickets were in vain. With old hands Michael Kilnger and Hamish Marshall anchoring the middle order, in that quintet of players, none of whom is over 25, Gloucestershire have the tools to make a run for top spot in their seven remaining  matches.

Ball Four – Leach and Henry clean up sorry Northamptonshire

Worcestershire tucked into second place, between Essex and Gloucestershire, after a crushing win over winless Northamptonshire. For that, they had much to thank their opening bowlers, Joe Leach and Kiwi quick Matt Henry, who combined for match figures of 60.1-11-207-15, the kind of numbers that usually see a pair of pacers on the winning side. While Joe Leach’s progression to the top of Division Two’s wickets table has caught the eye, the New Zealander has taken his wickets even more cheaply, his genuine pace a real strike weapon in a division where it is a rare sight.

Ball Five – Mark Wood is back and barking for Durham

In the T20 Blast North Group, Performance of the Week goes to England’s Mark Wood whose long haul back to fitness is progressing well. He backed up impressive figures of 4-0-25-1 against Leicestershire with even more parsimonious stuff in the Northants match, going for just 19 in his four overs and chipping in with a wicket. Durham’s two wins helped them to third place in the Group, but it’s so tight that any of the nine clubs could yet qualify for the quarter-finals. What a shame that the race is so invisible in the mainstream media.

Ball Six – L Dawson plays all the right notes for Hampshire

It’s almost as tight in the South Group, where the Performance of the Week goes to Liam Dawson, recently something of a surprise pick for England’s T20 side. He backed up his 76* off 54 balls with four wickets for just 23 runs, as he and Shahid Afridi strangled a Glamorgan reply that never got going. Dawson seems to have been around forever but, despite being in his tenth season for Hampshire , he’s still only 26. Few as young as that have acquired the street-smarts T20 cricket demands and we can expect him to play plenty more of the format in England colours.

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